It is, quite literally, a cliff hanger.
The Italian Job gang has stolen the gold. But their bus is hanging over the edge of a cliff. Michael Caine, who survived to become Batman's batman, utters the words: "Hang on a minute, lads. I've got a great idea."
So how can the gang save themselves and their illegally obtained life savings in this '60s cult classic? Now the Royal Society of Chemistry is asking the world's engineers to find a solution to one of the great movie endings--no helicopters allowed.
The rules are quite simple: Assume that in 30 minutes, the truck will topple down the mountain. As a very clever engineer, you provide a strictly mathematical calculation, coupled with an accurate diagram and, perhaps most difficult for some engineers, 150 words of explanation.
Professor Chris Pearce, fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, offered this frightfully imaginative solution to the Daily Telegraph: "I would suggest that the gang get out of the coach, let it fall, and get down the mountain as quickly as possible to retrieve the gold from the wreckage. That is the only logical thing to do, as it preserves their lives, and the gold isn't going to bother about the fall."
Now here's the thing. Michael Caine, who played the lead character named Charlie Croker, actually revealed the ending The Italian Job's producers intended a few years ago.
"The next thing that happens is, you turn the engine on," he told the BBC. "You all sit exactly where you are till all the petrol has run out, which changes the equilibrium. We all jump out, and the gold goes over the cliff. And at the bottom are the French mafia, sitting, waiting for the gold."
You see, the point of the cliffhanging ending was to prepare for a sequel. The second movie was to tell the story of the gang's quest to retrieve the gold from those devious onion-garlanded, bereted mafiosos.
However, Americans didn't mob movie theaters to see The Italian Job in sufficient numbers, so the sequel tumbled off the production pile.
Still, there is a spectacularly stingy prize--three nights, surprisingly, in Turin--for the fine mind that can bring this classic cult movie to a dramatic and scientifically accurate conclusion on the 40th anniversary of its release.
You have until January 1 to prepare your case. Involvement in the so-called Bridge to Nowhere does not disqualify you from entry.